Smekal, M., Gil, S., Donald, M., Beanlands, H., Straus, S., Herrington, G., … Hemmelgarn, B. R. (2019). Content and Quality of Websites for Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease: An Environmental Scan. Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease. First published July 30, 2019.

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Background:

Although numerous websites for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are available, little is known about their content and quality.

Objective:

To evaluate the quality of CKD websites, and the degree to which they align with information needs identified by patients with CKD.

Methods:

We identified websites by entering “chronic kidney disease” in 3 search engines: Google.com (with regional variants for Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States), Bing.com, and Yahoo.com. We included the first 50 unique English-language sites from each search. We evaluated website content using a 30-point scale comprising 8 priority content domains identified by patients with CKD (understanding CKD, diet, symptoms, medications, mental/physical health, finances, travel, and work/school). We used standardized tools to evaluate usability, reliability, and readability (DISCERN, HONcode, LIDA, Reading Ease, and Reading Grade Level). Two reviewers independently conducted the search, screen, and evaluation.

Results:

Of the 2093 websites identified, 115 were included. Overall, sites covered a mean (SD) of 29% (17.8) of the CKD content areas. The proportion of sites covering content related to understanding CKD, symptoms, and diet was highest (97%, 80%, and 72%, respectively). The proportion of sites covering travel, finances, and work/school content was lowest (22%, 12%, and 12%, respectively). The mean (SD) scores for DISCERN, LIDA and HONcode were 68% (14.6), 71% (14.4), and 75% (17.2), respectively, considered above average for usability and reliability. The mean (SD) Reading Grade Level was 10.6 (2.8) and Reading Ease was 49.8 (14.4), suggesting poor readability.

Limitations:

Our survey included Canadian adult CKD clinics, which may not be generalizability to other settings, such as care of people with CKD in primary care.

Conclusions:

Although many CKD web sites were of reasonable quality, their readability was poor. Furthermore, most sites covered less than 30% of the content patients identified as important for CKD self-management. These results will inform content gaps in internet-accessible information on CKD self-management that should be addressed by future eHealth web-based tools.